Rangers show playoff-like moxie by rallying to beat Devils after game-opening brawl

The Rangers are going to want to bottle up the emotion from this one and take a swig come playoff time later this month.

What could get the heart pumping and the blood flowing more than a gripping 4-3 win over the Devils Wednesday night at Madison Square Garden, where the Blueshirts blew a two-goal lead before rallying for the victory in the third, in a game that started with a five-on-five line brawl off the opening faceoff.

The Rangers managed the highs and lows of this matchup in a way that will benefit them this postseason.

A scuffle breaks out between New York Rangers left wing Will Cuylle #50 and New Jersey Devils center Dawson Mercer #91 during the first period on Wednesday night. Charles Wenzelberg / New York Post

“I’ve never seen that, I don’t know if that’s ever happened,” said Chris Kreider, who had a mixed bag of a performance before he ultimately scored the game-winner at the 15:03 mark of the final frame by getting a stick on an Adam Fox shot from the top of the zone. “To have 80 percent of them then be shown the gate, it’s just a weird dynamic.”

Deploying their fourth lines to start their fourth and final meeting of the season, with the Rangers’ face-puncher Matt Rempe on one side and the Devils’ enforcer Kurtis MacDermid on the other, everybody paired off and dropped the gloves in a chaotic scene around center ice.

At the heart of the feud was Rempe, who finally agreed to take on MacDermid after the 6-foot-8 ½ forward was ejected in each of the previous two contests (and then suspended for four games the second time around) between the teams for hits that knocked Devils players out for extended periods of time.

Jimmy Vesey fought Curtis Lazar.

A fight breaks out between New York Rangers center Matt Rempe #73 and New Jersey Devils defenseman Kurtis MacDermid #23 as well as three other sets of players as soon as the puck drops during the first period on Wednesday. Charles Wenzelberg / New York Post

K’Andre Miller squared off with John Marino.

Barclay Goodrow dropped the gloves with Kevin Bahl.

Captain Jacob Trouba went at it with Chris Tierney.

Since Vesey and Lazar were the first to engage, everybody else got hit with game misconducts for secondary fighting. So the Rangers were forced to play essentially the entire game without Trouba, Miller, Rempe and Goodrow, while the Devils had to go on without MacDermid, Marino, Bahl and Tieney.

Based on the way Peter Laviolette jawed back and forth with Devils interim coach Travis Green in the aftermath of the melee, the Rangers head coach presumably did not intend to lose two of his top defensemen and two forwards in such shenanigans.

“Our guys were reacting to what was happening on the ice,” said Laviolette, who said he did not know the line brawl was going to happen. “I thought they did a fantastic job. All five of them.”

The Rangers were seemingly galvanized by the fracas and ended up limiting the Devils to just four shots on goal through the opening 20 minutes, while also pulling ahead 2-0 on goals from Artemi Panarin and Alexis Lafreniere.

As quickly as they built their lead, however, the Rangers gave it up even faster.

The Devils came out of the first intermission with purpose and scored three straight to gain their first lead of the night by the 11:24 mark of the second period.

Poor D-zone coverage led to the first two Devils goals from Ondrej Palat and Brendan Smith. Kreider then mishandled the puck backwards, right to the stick of Jesper Bratt, who fed Nico Hischier in front for the 3-2 score.

Rangers left wing Artemi Panarin #10 reacts after he scores a goal passed New Jersey Devils goaltender Kaapo Kakko#31 during the first period on Wednesday. Charles Wenzelberg / New York Post

“I had Foxy wide open and it just rolled up on me,” Kreider told The Post. “Instead of going parallel, I pulled the puck back and almost put it on his tape and put our D in a bad position.”

Kaapo Kakko later kept the Rangers in the game by evening the score at three-all just over 5 ¹/₂ minutes into the third period, when the Finnish wing took advantage of Luke Hughes’ broken stick and buried the puck on a contested breakaway.

Rangers left wing Chris Kreider reacts after he scores the game winning goal on a power play during the third period. The New York Rangers defeated the Devils 4-3. Charles Wenzelberg / New York Post

Laviolette liked how his team stuck together in this one.

“The guys on the ice in the third period fought hard for the guys who fought early,” he said.

These are the makings of a playoff team.


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